Thursday, March 6, 2014

Russia v Ukraine: Exploring the Cyber Side of the Conflict

Source: CNN.com
Until now, the only example of cyber warfare where cyber was a component of a military invasion has been the Russia-Georgia war of August 2008. Today, we are seeing cyber attacks play a significant role in the increasing tension between Russia and Ukraine.

Russian hackers who are sympathetic to the Ukrainian people have just leaked 1,000 documents related to the operations of Russian defense contractor Rosoboronexport and are promising to leak more data from other Russian companies.

A Russian contact has told me that a member of Putin's Cabinet has authorized cyber mercenaries to hack into WiFi and telecommunications services in Ukraine to collect credentials and install malware on mobile phones.

Reuters reported the head of Ukraine's Security Service Valentyn Nalivaichenko as saying "I confirm that an IP-telephonic attack is under way on mobile phones of members of Ukrainian parliament for the second day in row."

Korsun Konstiantyn, head of the Ukrainian Information Security Group has been attempting to form a civilian cyber defense force in anticipation of a military action by Russia. He posted the following message to his LinkedIn group: "In connection with the Russian military intervention against Ukraine ask everyone who has the technical ability to resist the enemy in the information war, contact me in PM and be ready for battle. Will communicate with the security forces and to work together against an external enemy."

My contact has informed me that the SVR will be involved in cyber attacks against Ukrainian targets. And it would certainly utilize graduates from the Voronezh Hacking School, a secret school that's part of the Voronezh Military Radio-electronics Institute; an organization that Taia Global reported on in 2011 and continues to monitor.

The Russian military and security services are well-equipped and trained to engage in offensive cyber operations ranging from social media manipulation and control to targeting automatic systems (i.e., industrial control systems) from an airborne platform. 

Due to the importance of this conflict, I've decided to allocate a large portion of our Suits and Spooks event in April to expert discussion on the cyber and kinetic components of the Russia - Ukraine conflict. Speakers will include Kos Konstiantyn (quoted above) via Skype, Dr. Anna Vassilieva,
Director, Russian Studies Program at Monterey Institute of International Studies, and other to be invited guests. 

Tomorrow I'll be participating on a panel at the Harvard International Law Journal Symposium to speak on this issue and the question of when cyber attacks rise to the level that justifies armed response. I should have the Suits and Spooks website updated with our Russia-Ukraine intensive by this weekend. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or if you have information to share.

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